Seahawks comparisons overlook 2002 Buccaneers

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From the moment the Seahawks trounced the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, the comparisons to past defensive juggernauts began.

And one of the best defenses in the NFL has been largely overlooked in the process:  The 2002 Buccaneers.

The latest example came as ESPN’s The Sports Reporters went to break, with host John Saunders saying, “Seattle’s defense put on a devastating show in Super Bowl XLVIII, right up there with the Steel Curtain, the Super Bowl Shuffle Bears, and Ray Lewis’ Ravens.  Can they keep it up next year?”

While it may have been merely an oversight, it’s become a common one.  As pundits compare the Seahawks to great defenses of the past, they overlook the one that Tony Dungy built and Jon Gruden rode to the only recent blowout win in the Super Bowl before last Sunday.  Like Super Bowl XLVIII, Super Bowl XXXVII which also featured the No. 1 defense taking apart the No. 1 offense.

The Buccaneeers defense was likely better than the 2000 Ravens and comparable to the 1985 Bears, with two Hall of Famers (Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks), more coming (John Lynch and Ronde Barber), and another who has a good case for eventual enshrinement (Simeon Rice).

So as we look back through the annals of the Super Bowl, let’s not forget the team that joined the NFL with the Seahawks way back in 1976.  By the time all the bronze busts are sculpted, the 2002 Bucs could be the only team that can stack up with the Steelers of the ’70s.

68 responses to “Seahawks comparisons overlook 2002 Buccaneers

  1. Better than the 2000 Ravens? Seriously – that team allowed 165 pts in a 16 game season. 24 total pts in the playoffs. 4 shutouts and a 2.7 YPC. That unit was one of the top 3 D’s of all time. Arguably the best.

  2. I think the 85 Bears will stand alone with a freak season but I have said in many posts the defense is comparable to the Tampa Bay Super Bowl winning team and Ravens 2000.

    Number 1 scoring, number 1 in yards and number one in turnovers by a large margin. Taking into account restrictive defensive rules the stats will be on par. If that doesn’t sell you, look at what they did in the playoffs against Saints who passed for 5,000 yards and top scoring offense of all time. Very proud of this Seahawk team and impressive what John Schneider and Pete Carroll put together in 4 years.

  3. 85 bears best ever. 13 seahawks and 00 ravens on same level. 02 bucs a step down from that.

    stats are one part but the eye test is another. remember that the seahawks played a much better bronco team than the gannon-led raiders team that tampa beat back in the day.

  4. I really loved this year’s Seattle defense…

    But if you were to really break it down.
    I don’t think it is even top 10 in NFL history.

  5. Sorry, that Bucs D was very good, but with Gruden’s intel on the Raiders they had the advantage. I’ll make a case for the Seahawks, Bears,Steelers and let’s not forget those Dolphin teams (no name D).

  6. Splitting hairs here. 85 Bears, 00 Ravens, 02 Bucs & 13 Hawks all in same class. I can’t really comment on the 70s Curtain or Purple People Eaters.

    Some say that the 00 Ravens played a weaker schedule, thus producing freak stats.

  7. One stat to describe how utterly dominant that 2002 Bucs team was–in three playoff games, opposing offenses scored three TDs against the Bucs defense. The Bucs defense scored four TDs. That is domination.

    Derrick Brooks scored five defensive TDs that year. That team was insanely good.

  8. The 1999 Bucs were the best defense since the 85 Bears. No other defense could have held he Greatest Show on Turf to 9 points in its own building and been only a perfect pass away from holding them to 3. If only Shaun King wasn’t their quarterback, they’d have won the Super Bowl and been remembered more.

  9. John Lynch isn’t remotely a “future hall of famer”. Atwater and Butler were way better than him and they can’t even get a sniff. Good player on an excellent D. That is all.

  10. The bucs were the truth, but they have a few asterisk. They had the raiders entire playbook and the team they faced was the one built by their head coach who wasn’t even a full season removed from the team.

  11. What impresses me most about the Seahawks defense is the fact that so many new rules have been implemented protecting offensive players. None of the “historic defenses” listed had to use the physical restraint like the Seahawks did this year. Could you imagine what a player like Kam Chancellor would have done to receivers in ’85 or ’00?

  12. For someone to say that D Brooks was not no Ray Lewis obviously is just a fan of the Ravens. The year Ray Lewis won d player of the year Brooks had arguably just as good if not a better year than him. Also being an undersized LB in the league.
    Also someone forgets to mention that in that Super Bowl the bucs and Raiders where familiar with each other in the fact that coaches had worked w each other the year before. If it would have been two teams that didn’t know each other quit as well maybe the bucs d would have been considered better than it was, but we will never know just because of that fact.

  13. Advanced defensive stats show the 2002 Bucs was by far the best defense of this century. The 2000 Ravens wasnt even the best defense that season, the Titans were.

    2002 Bucs, 2013 Seahawks and 2000 Ravens in that order.

  14. So were giving credit to teams that blow out teams because they know all the opposing teams plays now? And Callahan has been called out by hall of famers for throwing the game? No sorry, the Bucs were good but they get an asterisk cause they played a team that had no chance.

  15. When at least half of your defense is mentioned with consideration for the Hall of Fame, you know there’s a little something to the discussion. That season was the most dominate a defense has even been in a playoff & Super Bowl run as well. The defense OUTSCORED all the teams they played in the playoffs….The defense scored more points in playoffs & Super Bowl than the other teams did. Considering as well the “Tampa 2” defense became a standard defense now used around the league says to standard by which they played.

    I love the Raven fans though always bring up that defense (Which I was a huge fan of being a defensive fan myself) which also had a pretty cupcake division with the Browns & Bengals which is four games that you could really pad your stats on. Tampa on the other hand didn’t have any real below average teams to which they could. I have to give it to the 85 Bears though as well But NO TEAM in then history of the NFL did what the Buccaneers did that season.

    The other amazing fact which I don’t think will be matched for quite some time is the Tampa Defense had the longest run in team defense in the top 5 in the NFL. For a decade, they were the high water mark being a fan of whoever you might be a fan, it can’t be denied they’re considered one of the best defense’s in the history of the game.

  16. THANK YOU! Finally, somebody points out that Gruden rode Dungy’s roster to the Super Bowl. I’m not saying he did nothing, but he’s gotten way too much credit considering that franchised collapsed after that one year.

  17. The 2000 Ravens played in a division with 2 of the worst offenses ever — 4 games to pad their stats. The Titans defense (in the same division) also had incredible stats because of the same 4 opponents. They were good, but not as good as the Bucs superbowl team. The Bucs D not only was dominated against both run and pass, they scored (I think) 10 TDs that year.

  18. …and, you rarely hear about the ’99 Bucs defense. They were probably better than the ’02 squad. They carried a much weaker offense through the playoffs and probably to the super bowl, if not for the infamous Bert Emanual catch (that was incorrectly ruled no catch).

  19. True, true. After the conference championships this year, I said the upcoming SB had “sluggo seam” written all over it, referring to the nfl films redux of SB XXXVII…predicted Seahawks 55, Broncos 20. Just hoped the Broncos could make a game of it anyway, but that was dashed with the first snap of the Super Bowl.

  20. Forget regular season.

    2000 Ravens still the only team since the 70’s Steelers not to give up an offensive Td in the Superbowl, The SUPERBOWL!!!

    That’s just utterly ridiculous.

    70’s Steelers 2000 Ravens 85 bears in tier 1

    LOB and 2002 Bucs not far behind.

    Nobody else deserves mention.

  21. Anyone who says Gruden won with Dungy’s team does not know the facts. Dungy had a horrible offense with no imagination. A good case could be made that the defense was in large part due to Monte Kiffin. When Gruden came he completely overhauled the offense. He brought in Michael Pittman, Keenan McCardell, Joe Jurevicius, Ken Dilger, Ricky Dudley and fortified the O Line with Roman Oben, Lomas Brown and Kerry Jenkins. Gruden left the D to Kiffen. This team that won the SB was certainly NOT Dungy’s team.

  22. Thank you Florio,

    Ravens were right in level with the 2002 Bucs but from late 1996 to late 2008 that Bucs D was consistently a top 10 defense each year and except 02 and maybe 05, 07 carried a much weaker offense to the playoffs .. 85 bears were great but was slightly inflated because they played some avg- below avg offense most of that yr.. Ravens same thing.. Bucs played much tougher offenses .. Worst team in their division in 02 was Carolina at 7-9 with a decent offense.. So 02 Bucs are right there.. All great defenses, but for one year.. #1 Bears, 2. 02 Bucs and 00 ravens tied with dolphins and steelers just a notch below

  23. 12.3 points per game given up by the Bucs in the 2002 season. No one has matched that since then.

    Thank you, Florio, for acknowledging the Bucs.

    Watching this year’s Super Bowl reminded me a lot of Super Bowl 37. One sided. #1 vs #1. Everyone predicted the #1 offense to win. #1 defense was the one who ended up dominating.

    Now lets see if Seattle can stay a Top 10 defense for 10 years like the Bucs did in the late 90s/early 2000s.

  24. From any statistical analysis that bucs defense was better that Seattle this year, I’m not going to said is better than those ravens and can’t talk about the 85 bears, but better than Seattle no doubt about it.
    I remember the same talking heads having the same discussion about the bucs been the best in history back in 2003, now they don’t even consider that team, that shows you the quality of their arguments.

  25. I wish people would actually watch the game of football instead of what people told them is good. Ray Lewis was good but his tackle numbers were always inflated cuz it is not an official stat. Derrick Brooks made so much more amazing plays than he did.

  26. Honestly, I’ve heard the Bucs mentioned several times in the past week around the discussion of all-time great defenses. So I certainly think they are getting their fair shout out. But in my opinion no way were they better than the ’00 Ravens just because they have more hall of famers on the roster.

  27. The 85 Bears played in an era of similar rules as the 70’s Steelers.

    Tampa and the Ravens played under different rules than the 70’s Steelers & 85 Bears.

    The 2013 Seahawks played under different rules than all of the aforementioned.

    Every decade rules favor the offense and restrict the defense.

    The 70’s Steelers wouldn’t be what they’re known for in this day and age.

    The 2013 Seahawks D would have thrived in any previous decade.

    Just take them for what they are. Each were very dominate in their time.

  28. Yeah you sure are right Derrick Brooks is NOT Ray Lewis. Brooks was HOF both on AND OFF THE FIELD

  29. Too bad the Seahawks did not cut their loose, then we would see who had the best all around team. I think there is more to come. With the richest NFL owner, I am sure it is possible to keep the Seahawks together. The salaries are just chump change to him.

  30. Another defense often overlooked is the Steelers’ defenses from 2004 to 2010. Not many teams can say they’ve won two Super Bowls and been to a third with a QB who threw just 17 TD passes in each their respective championship seasons.
    The Steelers’ defenses of recent history produced Defensive Players of the Year in 2008 (James Harrison) and in 2010 (Troy Polamalu).
    That’s pretty strong evidence that the Steelers’ D belongs in the conversation.

  31. I agree with Florio. The 2002 Bucs are often overlooked and I’m not sure why. The 2000 Ravens are overrated. Just look at their division that year. They got to face the expansion Browns, a Bengals team led by Akili Smith that set a record for fewest points scored, and a Steelers squad led by Kordell Stewart. In these 6 games, the Ravens held the Bengals/Ravens/Steelers to a combined 23 points, with one shutout of each team. No wonder the Ravens set the record for fewest points allowed in a season.

  32. I agree with Florio. The 2002 Bucs are often overlooked and I’m not sure why. The 2000 Ravens are overrated. Just look at their division that year. They got to face the expansion Browns, a Bengals team led by Akili Smith that set a record for fewest points scored, and a Steelers squad led by Kordell Stewart. In these 6 games, the Ravens held the Bengals/Browns/Steelers to a combined 23 points, with one shutout of each team. No wonder the Ravens set the record for fewest points allowed in a season.

  33. Everybody knows that Super Bowl was fixed. Gruden playing his old team knew everything they were going to do. Callahan handed the game to the Bucs on a silver platter. Joke game. One of worst ever.
    Tampa should give the Lombardi back.

  34. Too often media and fans oversimplify things by labeling champions as the best. Eagles defense of 1991 rarely gets mentioned as one of the greatest defenses of all time. Look at their stats and the offenses that they played against that year.

  35. I won’t denigrate any of the other top defenses of all time (70s Steelers, 85 Bears, 02 Bucs, etc.), but I wil never take anyone seriously who thinks the 2000 Ravens were overrated.

    During the regular season, they gave up 165 points total, forced 49 turnovers, allowed only 2.7 YPC, all while carrying one of the most anemic offenses in the NFL.

    Then, in four playoff games, they continued their dominating performance, outscoring the opposing offenses 28-23, forcing 12 turnovers, and getting 12 sacks.

    In sum, over 20 total games, the 2000 Ravens defense allowed 188 total points, forced 61 turnovers, scored 7 TDs, pitched 4 shutouts, had another 11 games where they allowed 10 points or fewer (including all 4 playoff games).

    That isn’t overrated, that’s one of the most dominating season long performances of all time. Believing otherwise is a combination of foolishness, bitterness, and jealousy.

  36. Bucs of 2002 the best defense of all-time against the pass. There is no debate, opposing QBs had a 46 rating against them…then they did even better in 3 consecutive playoff games.

    2000 Ravens were great against the run, but had advantage of playing half of their games against bottom of the league offenses (2 of the absolute worst in their own division).

  37. The Packers’ defense of the past few years would be in this conversation if the NFL would stop fining us for looking at opponents the wrong way.

  38. I agree, the 2002 Bucs were incredible … conceding a passer rating of 48 to opposing QBs in the regular season. Dungy gets a lot of credit for “building” that defense, but fact is that Sapp, Brooks and Lynch were all drafted while Sam Wyche was head coach of the Bucs, so give the regime prior to Dungy credit for putting the great players in place for Dungy and Gruden.

  39. I loved watching my Bucs D during the Dungy/Gruden era. But I, too, think the ’99 defense may have been even better than the ’02 unit. They were both amazing, though.

    I remember in the ’03 preseason they showed a graphic of the the QB ratings against the ’02 Bucs. Not only did the overall rating fall around 46, NO QB got over 59 in ANY single game.

    The Seahawks were incredible this year. I don’t really care about ranking these defenses. I’m just glad someone remembered to include the Bucs’ D in the conversation.

  40. All the Seahawks love needs to come back in a decade then we’ll compare to the Bucs/Steelers. One year wonders until they prove differently. BTW, FINALLY a positive Bucs story from Florio…thanks Mike!

  41. It’s very good that people have brought up the 2002 TB defense…it was a lot of fun to watch and certainly dominant.

    I don’t buy the blanket claim that it was better, or necessarily even at the same level as the 2000 BAL defense. I think people forget how epically bad that Ravens OFFENSE was. For some reason people treat the different units in football as if they’re isolated, but offense impacts field position, momentum, stamina, etc.

    Don’t believe me? Check out the drive charts in the games for both teams when they surrendered a fairly high point total. BAL rarely allowed truly long drives, and had one game (first against the Titans) in which all the scoring allowed was at the fault of the offense.

    Meanwhile, the 2002 TB defense surrendered plenty of long scoring drives that year (in fact, quite a few 90+ yard drives).

    What made the 2000 Ravens defense so good was that it was perhaps the most lockdown defense, especially in terms of yards, we’ve ever seen. The team didn’t get a ton of sacks, and actually had a pretty low turnover number (only 6 fumbles recovered, so likely even some back luck there) and yet it still was near impossible to score upon. It’s a much tougher task to compare these defenses to those of decades past (and SEA’s this year) given the difference in eras, but if you put these two under the microscope (and/or just use your memory if you were paying attention at the time) you’ll see that TB had a top notch defense for its time, but BAL had a HISTORIC one.

  42. Different eras of offense. Different eras of defense. Different eras of rules. Different opponents. You can’t use stats to compare them.

    Just face the fact that they are all awesome, be happy your team has earned a place in the conversation, and call it good.

  43. Here are the facts, guys:

    1.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 4.2 yards per play.
    The 2013 Seahawks allowed 4.4 yards per play.

    Advantage: 2002 Bucs

    2.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 12.2 points per game.
    The 2013 Seahawks allowed 14.4 points per game.

    Advantage: 2002 Bucs

    3.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 2490 passing yards.
    The 2013 Seahawks allowed 2752 pssing yards.

    Advantage: 2002 Bucs

    4.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 1554 rushing yards.
    The 2013 Seahawks allowed 1626 rushing yards.

    Advantage: 2002 Bucs

    5.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 253 yards per game.
    The 2013 Seahawks allowed 274 yards per game.

    Advantage: 2002 Bucs

    You people have short memories. The 2002 Bucs defense was DOMINANT. They were as good as the greatest defenses the league ever saw. They were better than this Seahawks defense (though not by much).

    And while Seattle helped their defense with the FOURTH best rushing offense (which invariably lets a defense rest, and limits the opportunities for the opposing offense), the 2002 Bucs had the TWENTY-SEVENTH best rushing offense.

    Seattle has a great, even all time great defense. The 2002 Bucs had a GREATER all time great defense.

    They just get over looked because very shortly after that year the team fell to pieces. But make no mistake: in almost every statistical category the 2002 Bucs were better than the 2013 Seahawks.

  44. Oh yeah, regarding the 2000 Ravens (same categories as before):

    1.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 4.2 yards per play.
    The 2000 Ravens allowed 4.3 yards per play.

    Advantage: 2002 Bucs

    2.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 12.2 points per game.
    The 2000 Ravens allowed 10.3 points per game.

    Advantage: 2000 Ravens

    3.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 2490 passing yards.
    The 2000 Ravens allowed 2997 passing yards.

    Advantage: 2002 Bucs

    4.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 1554 rushing yards.
    The 2000 Ravens allowed 970 rushing yards.

    Advantage: 2000 Ravens

    5.) The 2002 Bucs allowed 253 yards per game.
    The 2000 Ravens allowed 248 yards per game.

    Advantage: 2000 Ravens

    As you can see, it’s closer between the Bucs and the Ravens than the Bucs and the Seahawks. HOWEVER, the Ravens had the FIFTH best rushing offense, while again the Bucs had the TWENTY-SEVENTH rushing offense. The Ravens also had a better overall offense (16th versus 24th). The Ravens defense, while great, had HELP that the 2002 Bucs did not.

    The 2000 Ravens had a historically dominant RUN defense. Their pass defense was good by not all that awe inspiring (8th in the league that year). However, it is much easier to be great against the run when your OFFENSE is great at running it- something the 2000 Ravens and 2013 Seahawks had in common. Not so much for the 2002 Bucs, who had the worst of offense of all the great defenses that are brought up in this discussion save the 1991 Eagles (that’s right, the 2000 Ravens OFFENSE is underrated. Yeah, they went through a horrible stretch of a FEW games, but once Dilfer got his hands firmly on the reigns they were settled and helped their defense).

    I would say that the 2002 Bucs and the 2000 Ravens are essentially on the same level, along with the ’85 Bears and the ’91 Eagles, and the 2013 Seahawks are right below that rung.

  45. A year later, I’d like to also mention that unlike these other defenses, due to poor offense, the 2002 Bucs defense was in the field significantly more plays than all of these other great defenses.

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